The federal government requires colleges to submit race and ethnicity information in order to receive federal funding. This is really nothing new as ethnicity and race data have always been collected and then reported to the US Department of Education. This information is important to the government for the use of determining eligibility and accountability. It can also be of use to the Office for Civil Rights to help enforce the laws in place prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s race or ethnicity.

Why has the Government changed the way it collects this type of data?

Research completed through the use of the US Census determined that many individuals have a very complex identity. In other words they easily identify with more than one race or ethnic category. This makes it difficult for some individuals to limit their answers to just one race or ethnic group. Therefore, the questions in this section have recently changed.

What are the biggest changes in how race and ethnic information is gathered and reported?

The government’s Department of Education now requires educational facilities to use questions that are two part. The first question will ask if the person is Hispanic or Latino. The second question will ask the person to choose one or more races they identify with.

There have also been some broadening of other categories such as Asian is now one category and Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian is a separate category. The two used to be together.

Are students required to report ethnic information?

Even though the schools are required to report ethnic information they obtain from the forms, students are not required to provide it. Reporting any type of race or ethnicity is purely optional and students may or may not wish to be identified in this way. It is their right to privacy which protects them from having to share this information with the school.